Eugene Blackford letter excerpt November 21, 1861

The excitement of battle quickly died down, to be followed by the unending drudgery of drill, picket, and fatigue details of all sorts. Blackford was taken ill and went home to recuperate, then returned, still very weak, when he heard a battle might be imminent. There was an action at Ball’s Bluff on October 20th (which the Confederates won handily), but no major battle.

His regiment staged an election, elevating Allen C. Jones to colonel. Blackford’s letter contains a pithy observation of the new commander, and laments the loss of Major John T. Morgan. The latter was an excellent officer, who returned home to raise his own regiment (the 51st Partisan Rangers), and served with distinction in the western theater, where he was eventually promoted to brigadier general.  Blackford also struggles with his feeling of obligation to his own company, the Barbour Greys, and his desire for promotion. General Rodes was in favor of elevating Blackford to higher leadership positions, but initially he resisted the idea.


Head Quarters 3rd Brigade 1st Division A.P.
Union Mills 21st Nov. 1861

“Within hearing distance of the enemy’s guns”

…. I never told you, and do not now wish it alluded to for private reason, that Gen. Rodes offered me a place on his staff. I had long ago made up my mind not to go on a staff, the life is not military tho’ extremely pleasant. I wish to become acquainted with my profession in all its details, and that can’t be done on the Staff, tho’ t’would be immensely pleasant to be housed with such pleasant companions this winter. The relations between a general and his “family” are very pleasant and intimate, but as I said one can’t learn the trade in that manner.

I have already mentioned the circumstances in which I found our regiment, namely that the officers (some of them) had petitioned for the right of an election for a new Col., wh. was granted by the Gov. of Ala., and of course disgusted all military men, such a practice being conveniently calculated to demoralize an army. The Major & Lt. Col. had sent in their resignations—the latter however seeing his chance very good for election to what he was entitled to by promotion, decided to with draw his resignation, & take his chance. The major refused to do so tho’ his election was almost certain. The election took place yesterday and to my joy resulted in the election of our Lt. Col. (Jones) to the Colonelcy, this showing that the men understood the principle involved, and appreciated it.

Col. Jones is not at all qualified for the office, being a jolly old millionaire & and an elegant gentleman withal, but knowing as little of the tactics, as a “hog does of a holiday” as we used to say at the University. Maj. [John T.] Morgan is one of the best officers in the service, and we are all very much grieved, I particularly, that he refuses to take his chance for the Lt. Colonelcy. He has applied for a Leave of Absence, if it be granted he is going to Lynchburg, and will bear a letter of introduction to you. Please treat him with marked attention; you will find him an elegant gentleman; he stands very high at the bar in Ala. and his moral standing is enough (I have heard) to elevate the standing of our regiment. He has always been a great friend of mine. Could you entertain him in our house?

I have been repeatedly requested by the men to run for the Lt. Colonelcy, or the Majority. Gen. Rodes & the officers of the regiment tell me I would get either without any trouble, there would be no opposition to me for the majority. I cannot however reconcile it to my conscience to leave my company now they are absolutely helpless, and tho’ I don’t intend that it shall always be in my way for promotion, I cannot leave then now. Gen. Rodes concurs in my views and I have given my final answer to the men. The temptation of being a Lt. Col. was strong but I can soon do better probably, tis easy enough for one to rise in this Army if he will learn his duty and do it. ….


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